Stranmillis Roundabout in South Belfast is used as an alternative route for commuting cyclists accessing the Towpath in winter when the Botanical Gardens are closed.
It also serves as a route from the residential areas of Stranmillis to the Towpath. A nearby desire line bears this out:
The roundabout has 5 arms, clockwise from the north: Stranmillis Road (N), Stranmillis Embankment, Lockview Road, Stranmillis Road and the entrance to Stranmillis College.
The roundabout is a standard UK circle with two rings, a central island and has zebra crossings across all the arms. There are 2 bus stops: just north of the college gates for city bound Metro services and at the start of Stranmillis Road for outbound services.
A small Belfast City Council run car park is situated between Stranmillis Road (N) where you also find a bottle bank.
The area to the south is mainly residential with a few small business at Lockview Road, including 5a, a cycling themed café. To the west is the Stranmillis College estate; the Lagan to the east and Stranmillis village and Queen’s University to the north.
The roundabout has no dedicated space for cycling. Stranmillis Road has a painted cycle lane, but this stops well short of the circle.
There is a short shared use path from the roundabout along Stranmillis Embankment towards the Lagan. A marked crossing takes cyclists to the segregated path on the other side of the Embankment. Most cyclists ignore the shared use path and instead cycle down to the river on the footpath on the other side of the road and follow the track used by the cyclist in the photo above.
The circle has been the scene of a number of collisions involving cyclists:
Read more here.
Because it is directly adjacent to one of Belfast’s busiest cycle routes the roundabout’s layout should be altered to accommodate cycling.
We can make the circle safer by making it look a bit like this “monstrosity”. (Like calling a lifebuoy at a scenic seaside beauty spot an eye sore.)
In real life a Dutch roundabout looks like this one at Laaghuissingel in Venlo, where cycling has a modal share of ~30%:
Going around in circles, going nowhere fast
Currently Stranmillis roundabout is set up to improve traffic flow. In contrast, continental designs of roundabouts have road user safety in mind.
The most significant change would be reduction in number of lanes approaching the circle, and reducing the circling lanes from two to one.
At Stranmillis there is an over-provision of vehicle space. Most of the day the circle is quiet. At rush hour the roads in the area grind to a halt. Either way, the present circle is not meeting needs.
The traffic levels in Stranmillis fall within the first category: a roundabout with one circling lane and single approaches should suffice. The area sees a peak flow of approximately 1400 vehicles per hour, and 14,000 vehicles a day.
There are significant numbers of pedestrians and cyclists using the circle, due to its proximity to the University, Stranmillis College and the Towpath.
For what it’s worth here’s the Strava heat map:
At present northbound traffic is split between two lanes, which past the roundabout are merged on Stranmillis Embankment. Why? The merging causes delays for traffic leaving the area. It is an area of conflict between drivers, and it should not surprise most collisions involving cyclists are here.
Reducing vehicle traffic space will increase available space for pedestrians and cyclists. More space can be found by realigning the arms and make the entries and exits less flared.
Reducing vehicle space is something guaranteed to raise hackles within the NI Department of Infrastructure. Despite the pro-cycling leadership proposals to reduce speed limits, impose filtered permeability, bung up rat runs, remove vehicle access, etc are met with Departmental opposition.
If we want to grow cycling in Belfast we need to rearrange our road space, and start thinking about moving people rather than vehicles. So more bus lanes, not fewer and segregated safe space for cycling along main arterial roads.
Belfast City Council in their response to NI Bicycle Strategy Draft welcome “Dutch style roundabouts”
Other roundabouts in south and east Belfast where cyclist will benefit from a re-design are Ormeau:
And away from Belfast’s cycling heartland, Carlisle Circus:
And what are Dutch roundabouts like for cyclists?